[LINK] Number One Privacy Debacle

Adam Todd link at todd.inoz.com
Sat Oct 21 12:42:53 AEST 2006

And we all know that once a "unique" identifier is in one database, it only 
takes seconds to cross reference it with others!

I run a number of databases.  For years I've been collecting business 
cards, entering the date I acquire the card and notes about the 
circumstances and of course the card details.

Of course there are trade fairs where there are published details, 
newspapers, magazines and editorials and so on.  Anything online I can 
extract data from easily gets extracted.

Then I have my user registration databases.  People willing enter 
data.  (Amazing how much some people will enter too!  See more below ...)

Sometimes, for curiosity, I'll cross reference the databases.  Perhaps by 
phone number, or last name, or full name or address.  Sure, I can't "prove" 
that a linked lastname or full name is the person specifically, some people 
have the same name, but when you add DOB, or a phone number, or address, 
you start to get a pretty interesting picture.

Now how much will people enter?  I have a web site I set up about 11 years 
ago.  It was set up purely to gather information about people, 
willingly.  I was originally going to do something like bebo or linkedin or 
those kinds of sites, but never got around to it.

I have questionnaires on the site that people happily fill in.  And some of 
the questions are very exacting and specific.  87% of people who "register" 
fill in 93.7% of the questions.

Thinks like:

Past Relationships, their date of birth, where they lived, their mobile 
number, how many days a week you spent together, how many nights etc.

Past work: Where, whom, how much you got paid, what you did, who your boss 
was, any subordinates, etc

Social groups ...

How about bank and credit card, passport, ID and other details, in case you 
get mugged and need to cancel fast - just hit the web site, and all your 
details are there instantly!  Gosh we even started building up email 
addresses for organisation that had email alert functions.

The family tee feature is used by quite a few people, it literally builds a 
family tree.  More names, dates of birth, addresses if known, place of 
marriage, whom to, when, location of grave, date of death, children, 
siblings, second marriages, got an email address for them, add it and send 
an invitation to establish a login, mostly pre-created!  etc.

And the list goes on.

It's amazing how much information people willing give out without even 
batting an eye.  It's amazing how much my database with millions of names 
globally, could be worth, but I have too much ethic.  (I think there are 
even a couple of Linkers in the database!)  (I'm not even going to hint as 
to how many names or details are recorded.)

Of course since I set out to build that web site, things have changed in 
the world a lot.  Privacy is something I value and I value it for any 
person who associates with me, even if I don't like them.  I will ONLY ever 
give out information that is PUBLIC, and only if I know it's public (a 
phone number is not necessarily public information, and addresses rarely 
are, I don't check the electoral roll to see if someone has their address 
published, so I don't consider it sharable.)

I still get registrations on the site, anywhere from 3-15 a day.  The site 
of course encourages you to get friends to register and use your referral 
ID, so the tagged linking is available.

But I don't think I could ever do what I had intended 11 years ago.  The 
database in it's fullest capability would pretty much allow you to track 
anyone down anywhere, any time, and find out just about anything about them.

The problem with the system is, when you enter linked details, you gain 
additional information about that person, especially if they have published 
details in the database.  I turned off all linked publishing, so the only 
reference you get, if you are a user, is "the user is in the database" and 
sub references can be created, but you can't view anything you didn't enter 
with your own ID, or an ID that has been approved for linking.  (Husband an 
Wife for example.)

I use to send an invitation to anyone I added to my records in the 
database, an invitation to join the database, but as times changed, I 
turned that feature off too.

I ponder every day, how can I make this database useful to people, to be 
used with the integrity that it was designed for, and no abused by people 
aren't going to use it for it's purpose.  I am yet to come up with an answer.

These things really also go to those schoolfriends and reunion web 
sites.  The amount of information you can obtain from those is 
incredible.  I've been tracking down past acquaintances, and even looking 
up people I know, just for interest sake.  (Yep, I add a few notes to my 
database!  Better on the hard drive than in my grey matter!)

It's a scary world when technology tools can be so easily merged migrated 
and ratified.  Assumptions can be minimise, and accuracy increases with 
more data merged.

A phone book can be an incredible source of information that is free, 
easily accessible and updated regularly.

At 11:04 AM 21/10/2006, Howard Lowndes wrote:

>Kim Davies wrote:
>>Quoting Adam Todd on Friday October 20, 2006:
>>| | I don't even think a Social Security number, which is akin to our | 
>>Centrelink Reference Number is really that big an issue.
>>As the posessor of a US Social Security Number, I would say that
>>is a gross understatement of the pervasiveness of social security
>>numbers. Not only do you need them to access government services,
>I would accept that - it's their number and is related to their services
>  it
>>is mandatory to have one and supply it to be employed,
>...again acceptable as it relates to tax issues
>  and mandatory
>>for such basic things as getting water connected to your house.
>not acceptable as it's has no bearing on the supply of the service - which 
>I assume is a private concern.
>  It is
>>virtually impossible to get financial services or anything that involves
>>being billed for service without supplying it.
>totally unacceptable.
>  It really is an almost
>>universal ID that has the capacity of tying your identity across many
>>different organisations, both governmental and private.
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